Sipping success: Australian companies aiming high at 6th CIIE

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This photo taken on Nov. 3, 2023 shows an electronic poster of the 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Xuhui District of Shanghai, east China. [Photo/Xinhua]

In the bustling exhibition hall of the Sixth China International Import Expo (CIIE), the wines from Cimicky Estate, displayed at the Australian food and agriculture booth, drew the eyes of attendees, with visitors frequently picking up a glass to savor a sip.

On the sidelines of the event, 40 bottles of Cimicky 2016 Chardonnay were featured at the Reception with the Prime Minister of Australia. Nigel Sneyd, the Chief Winemaker of the company, remains optimistic that, as in the past, this Chinese tour will yield positive outcomes.

This is the fourth time that Cimicky Estate has participated in the CIIE in the thriving city of Shanghai in east China.

"This year we've seen lots of businesses, probably more than what we've seen before," Sneyd said. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the global economy, and Sneyd is optimistic that the world's first import-themed national-level expo could breathe new life into his company's cross-border trade. And Sneyd is not alone in this belief.

According to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), this year a record number of nearly 250 Australian exhibitors are attending the CIIE.

In a video posted on the official WeChat account of Austrade, Don Farrell, Australian minister for trade and tourism, called this expo "an opportunity to showcase the best Australia has to offer." He noted that China is Australia's largest trading partner, accounting for around 300 billion Australian dollars (about 193.2 billion U.S. dollars), or 1.4 trillion yuan in two-way trade, during the fiscal year 2022-2023.

This figure represents a quarter of Australia's total goods and services exports to the world, with China being Australia's sixth-largest direct investor.

Earlier this year, mining giant Rio Tinto signed a long-term collaboration memorandum to be an exhibitor in the CIIE from 2024 to 2028. It is the first Fortune Global 500 company to sign up for the CIIE for the next five years.

"Rio Tinto has been an old friend of the CIIE, and we have been actively participating in the expo since six years ago," said its Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm in an interview with Xinhua.

He described the CIIE as "a place to get inspiration." "It's natural for us to be here because we have such a great business in China, and we always need to figure out not just what the customer needs today, but what they need tomorrow," he said.

Hailing the development of the world's second economy, Stausholm said, "the world has never seen such an economic expansion so fast. That's what China has achieved." "The most visible thing is that you obtain hundreds and hundreds of millions of people out of poverty... It goes without saying that the Chinese economy is in a different state today than it was some decades back," he continued.

This marks Stausholm's first visit to the CIIE in person, and he views it as a positive indicator that several foreign leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, have addressed the expo. For Albanese, it was his seventh visit to China and the first since assuming office, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first China visit by an Australian prime minister, Gough Whitlam.

"This is the first participation at the CIIE from an Australian Trade Minister since 2018 and the first ever for an Australian Prime Minister," said Andrea Myles, senior trade and investment commissioner of Austrade. "The visits are certainly a positive step for Australia-China economic and trade relations."

"We're excited to meet Chinese importers and buyers and for all CIIE attendees to see the premium products we have on offer," she told Xinhua. "'Team Australia' really came together for the roaring return of CIIE this year."

Citing the fact that China and Australia have highly complementary economies, she said that every year they see new business connections between Australian exhibitors and Chinese buyers, and a great number of deals signed. This is the reason why the Victoria-based Animus Distillery chose to participate in the CIIE for the first time this year.

"Participating in the CIIE is the best way to meet distributors in China directly to give them a taste of what we do and you get to speak one-on-one," said co-founder of the company Luke Jacques.

While he was in Shanghai, he visited several cocktail bars to get a sense of the taste of Chinese customers. "So I am very very happy to bring my gins and I hope that the people of China really respond to them," he said, adding that he would love to find some distributors.

Port Adelaide Football Club has already signed a contract with UnionPay International and Intella Payments at the CIIE. The club has attended this expo three times, and its general manager for commercial and partnerships Brett Mathers considers this particular one to be the most important. This year's CIIE is especially notable as it is the first one since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted.

"This one is significant for us given that we've signed a long-term partnership with UnionPay International and Intella Payments under support from Sequoia Financial which will see some new and innovative payment methods coming back to Australia, and Port Adelaide Football Club will be able to help promote this to our members and fans and a broader Australian community. We are really excited about that," Mathers said.

The Cimicky Estate has forged cooperation with many Chinese companies through the CIIE in the past years, like the WZ Group in Zhejiang.

"Through trade businesses, both countries could enhance exchanges and understanding, which is helpful for the people-to-people relationship between the countries," Sneyd said.

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